Travelling Australia - Journal 2014
28 February 2014

Balranald to Echuca
We left Balranald initially on the Sturt Highway towards Hay but turned off onto the Mallee Highway a few kilometres after crossing the Murrumbidgee River. This road would take us south to the Murray Valley Highway. The weather was good for travelling with a mostly clear sky and little wind. Air temperature at 9 o'clock was 13°C but the day was certain to become warmer.

Traffic was very light, a few more heavy transports than we expected but not enough to be of any concern. Other traffic was sedans and a few 4WDs.

The Mallee Highway is a generally good, two-lane bitumen highway running in long straight, mostly flat sections through a mixture of mallee and fallow wheat paddocks. The only settlement passed before reaching the Murray was Kyalite where the road crossed the Wakool River shortly after the junction of the Edward River with the Wakool.

The Wakool was a surprisingly large river, comparable in size with the Murrumbidgee at Balranald. The relationship between the Murray River and the Edward/Wakool is complex and strongly influenced by changes in landform over thousands of years. At one stage most Murray water flowed through the Edward River, explaining why it has such a wide and deep channel, but then landform changed and the water remained in the Murray. In flood times water flows become very complex.

Near Kyalite we passed a pistachio nut farm, an unusual sight. We also passed a couple of paddocks with spray irrigation rigs, one paddock was covered in wheat stubble and the other had been recently ploughed so we had no idea what crop would be grown under irrigation; by now we were less than ten kilometres from the Murray River so water for the spray was not a great problem.

The Mallee Highway passed through Tooleybuc on the New South Wales side of the Murray River before crossing the river and the Murray Valley Highway. The Mallee Highway continues onto Ouyen but we turned left on the Murray Valley Highway bound initially for Swan Hill then Echuca.

The Murray Valley Highway (B400) runs approximately along the Murray River through several large and small towns including Swan Hill, Kerang, Cohuna and Lake Boga. Agricultural activity along the road varies remarkably. At one extreme was a plantation of cricket bat willow near Nyah but grape vines or vegetables were more widespread. We also passed several small wineries; they may have been small but they had an extensive inventory of white tanks shining in the sun and we speculated on how profitable they were given the low retail price of much wine in Australia and the considerable investment represented by the tanks and associated pipework.

There was a variety of crops growing along the Murray Valley Highway but irrigated crops tended to be confined to fairly small areas. Between irrigation schemes the common crop was grain and extensive paddocks of fallow wheat frequently lined the road.

After passing through Swan Hill irrigation ceased and the land was devoted more to conventional grazing and cropping although we did pass an olive grove.

In Echuca we made our way to the caravan park near the Port since the reason for this visit was to have a look at the remodelled Port of Echuca display. We checked in for four nights and set up on a convenient drive-through site.

26 February 2014 - page 2

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